Older and Wiser


As a teenager, I remember my grandma moaning to me about getting older.

I am old now, she would say, I have become stupid. Now I am useless.

I would reassure her, saying, You are still young. You are not useless. 

My eyesight isn’t bright anymore, she would say, I don’t see as clearly. I cannot thread a needle. And I can’t hear anymore. And I don’t know how to think anymore. I cannot remember anything. I am old, useless. You are still young, you don’t know.

She was right. I didn’t understand. She was kind, and tried to describe and explain it to me. Sadly, she passed away a few years after that.

We understand, in theory, that older persons are slower, less coordinated, and they see and hear less well. In truth, it is difficult for young persons to imagine how older people experience the world. But there’s a way to simulate the experience… and here’s how it’s done:

1. Put on a pair of goggles with vaseline smeared on the lenses so you get a blurred view of the world,

2. Stick a pair of earplugs in your ears.

3. Get someone to duct-tape three fingers in each hand together so you can simulate arthritis,

4. If you have access to a wheelchair, get in and have someone to push you around.

Now if you tried to do the following things, you’d immediately have problems.

a) go to toilet – you’ll find it hard to undo your pants with “arthritic” fingers

b) take an elevator – can you even see whether the elevator coming is going up or down? can you get in or out before the door shuts on you?

c) buy something – can you hear what’s going on? can you count the money in your hand? can you hand the correct amount over?

I had the “privilege” of being a victim in the above experiment. After a period, I was quite giddy and frustrated with the world. Imagine if those were the conditions day after day, year after year.

So I am more sympathetic now, and more patient. And I sometimes find myself telling my children, I am getting older now, things are breaking down; you are young, you don’t understand.

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19 thoughts on “Older and Wiser”

  1. I see this and more daily but I think all willing should experience this at least once in there life just so they may show the elderly and infirmed some compassion and understanding. A great post that I’d like to share on my facebook!

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  2. You’ve reminded me of how horrible it will be when I can’t see clearly. That’s one sense that I really don’t want to lose.

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  3. I say this to my children now – I’m old, things aren’t working like they used to! My son always tells me I’m still going great (I do so love that kid) but like you I did a somewhat similar experiment when I was working at an assisted living home. I was put in a wheelchair for a day and had to be pushed and do everything from that chair. It was rough!!!

    Sadly many societies no longer respect its older citizens and make them feel broken down and useless even when they aren’t.

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    1. Knowledge and experience are such different things, aren’t they?
      I agree with your observation about loss of respect. Respect for others, whether older or less capable persons, must be cultivated and nurtured. Once lost, it is very difficult to regain in societies.

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  4. Changes are just that: changes. We tell ourselves a story about them. “This is a bad change.” We become unhappy with the change. But we can choose to tell ourselves something else.

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  5. I used to do this ‘awareness’ training with my staff when I worked in long term care. They all had a good laugh about doing an activity so hindered, but they developed a more sympathetic viewpoint!

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